The jacarandas are fully in flower, captivating many with their pretty purple blossoms.
But this purple haze doesn’t enthral everyone. Take, for example, Dudley’s Don Owers. He’s no fan of jacarandas.
Don noticed in the news that a Kirribilli street recently became a tourist attraction because the jacarandas were in flower.
“Everyone to their own tastes of course, but I would far rather marvel at the rich diversity of our native plants than the mauve flowers of the jacaranda,” Don said.
While he may not have an affinity with jacarandas, Don most definitely likes trees – the native kind in particular.
“When it comes to native plants, Novocastrians are blessed with a 15-kilometre long corridor [the Fernleigh Track],” Don said.
The track, he says, contains “much of nature’s finest displays”.
“Because it utilised an old rail corridor that still had a buffer zone on either side, it is a time capsule which has preserved much of the type of bush that existed when the rail line was built more than 100 years ago.
“Those who travel along its length are treated to the sight of a huge variety of native plant species as well as the birds, snakes and lizards that it harbours.
“It is not uncommon to see tiny wren's flitting past, water dragons or snakes warming themselves in the sun and, for the observant, an eagle or even a powerful owl.”
Don said the track’s southern section runs through paperbark-dominated wetlands “with the white of peeling bark contrasting with the dark-clothed eucalyptus robusta”.
Partially submerged trees in the wetlands can become habitat for small fish, he said.
“Further north, the track wanders into dry sclerophyll forest where, in spring, the angophora sheds its skin to reveal a bright orange trunk. The spotted gum unwraps its bark to reveal a trunk that seems to glow with a pale green luminescence in the rain.
“There are also blackbutt trees whose stark white trunk highlights the burnt bark at its base.”
The blackbutts compete for attention with scribbly gums. Each have their own story “imprinted on the trunk by insects”.
Then there’s the lords of the forest – the turpentine trees. Don says their ancestors were used to build the Suez Canal.
“For those who disparage our native vegetation as being just green leaves and cream flowers, consider the many varieties of bottle brush whose flowers explode into shades of red that leave the jacaranda looking insipid by comparison.”
Despite the natural beauty of the track, Don says all is not well.
Exotic plants threaten to turn parts of the track into “a monoculture of privet”, or worse – a forest of camphor laurel, which was “now spreading rapidly”.
“There are many other weeds appearing. The castor oil plant has poisonous berries, and the ochna – with its prolific burst of scarlet flowers – has been described as the red peril. It is quick to dominate and hard to eradicate,” he said.
The track was a “natural marvel”, not simply “a strip of tar that needs an occasional sweeping and trees to be barricaded in case someone collides with them”.
Don says local authorities and Landcare can do much more to protect the area.
“Community weeding and planting events, which were very successful, now seem conspicuous by their absence. Fortunately, dedicated locals do a great job of weeding and planting but they need the support of the councils, especially when it comes to removing the larger exotic species and repairing track surfaces.”
Tower Cinemas Prank
Bohemian Rhapsody was among the last movies to be shown at Tower Cinemas when it closed on Wednesday. To mark the cinema’s final days, a cheeky larrikin had a bit of fun with the board that displays which movies are showing. Freddie Mercury would have had a giggle at that one.
Facebook or Faceache?
Hunter-based communications expert Paul Budde says Facebook is failing.
“The question for Facebook will be if they can make changes to their complex system of algorithms that would make it possible to stop fake news, lies and a range of what can only be called criminal behaviours. Not only is this almost technically impossible (unscrambling the egg) but such changes could limit their lucrative advertising business. This fear is reflected in the falling share price,” Paul wrote in his latest blog.
This, combined with increased pressure from governments across the world, means “Facebook will have to make major changes quickly if the company is to survive”.
Despite Facebook’s success, the “damage to democracy has been so high that the negatives start outweighing the positives”.
“Initially they believed they could change the world for good, but once they went public this went pear-shaped, as shareholders wanted to see big profits.”
To increase revenues, Facebook [and other companies] developed more and more algorithms and were “very casual in making that data available to others purely for commercial reasons, without checking where the data actually ended up”.
Paul said social media should be based on “permission-based systems”, in which users control their own data.